November 25, 2019

Duckworth, Durbin Introduce Bill to Address Public Housing Crisis in East St. Louis and Across Illinois

Amid shortage of affordable housing options and backlog in public housing capital repairs, this new legislation proposes more than $100 billion investment in affordable housing


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), introduced the Housing is Infrastructure Act, comprehensive legislation to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis, including public housing and low- and mixed-income housing through infrastructure investments.  The bill would specifically add $70 billion to the Public Housing Capital Fund, which will aid in building, modernizing, and rehabilitating the public housing stock throughout Illinois.

Residents of the East St. Louis Housing Authority (ESLHA) continue to report unsafe and hazardous living conditions, including maintenance repair requests that have gone unaddressed.  Last August, ProPublica published an investigative report revealing that in 2017, a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspection gave nine East St. Louis housing complexes a failing score and found a total of 5,405 safety violations—24 percent of which HUD deemed life threatening.  Durbin and Duckworth’s legislation would address this crisis by giving resource-strapped public housing authorities the funding required to address the capital needs of their properties.

 “It’s unacceptable that any Illinoisan—that any American—living in public housing finds themselves in units that are crumbling or unsafe,” said Duckworth.  “Children and families rely on investments like these that help improve housing conditions, increase security and reduce homelessness.  With the Trump Administration seeking to eliminate this critical funding source entirely and make this problem worse, our new proposal will actually make important investments to significantly reduce the critical repair backlog in public housing and keep families safe.  I’m proud to join Senators Harris and Durbin to introduce it.”

“For many families living in public housing across the country, and especially in East St. Louis, their buildings are in disrepair,” Durbin said. “For too long, the federal government has shirked its responsibility to make adequate funding available to address the conditions of our rapidly deteriorating public housing stock. This bill is a commitment to make critical federal investments that would ensure all Americans have access to safe and healthy housing.”

In June, Duckworth and Durbin sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson pressing for answers on the state of public housing infrastructure in East St. Louis, including the growing backlog of repairs at Public Housing Authorities, like the ESLHA, and whether HUD is meeting its oversight authority to ensure that residents are provided with decent, safe, and sanitary living conditions. They also expressed disappointment with the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget that called for deep cuts in federal funding to HUD’s affordable housing programs, including the Public Housing Capital Fund.

America’s public housing system, which houses more than two million Americans, is in need of investment to repair essentials like roofs and elevators. The Public Housing Capital Fund has an estimated need of $70 billion to rehabilitate these buildings. The ESLHA’s public housing stock alone has more than $42 million in immediate physical needs that is expected to triple over the next decade if Congress does not act.

The Housing is Infrastructure Act will tackle America’s affordable housing crisis head on by investing over $100 billion in the construction of new affordable housing units, maintenance of existing subsidized housing, and support for rural housing through infrastructure investments.

Specifically, the bill makes the following investments:

  • $70 billion to the Public Housing Capital Fund, which will aid in building, modernizing, and rehabilitating public housing;
  • $6 billion dedicated to building housing for elderly households, persons with disabilities, and Native Americans living on tribal lands
  • $5 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund for the construction of hundreds of thousands of new rental units that would be affordable for the lowest income households; 
  • $1 billion to the Rural Multi-Family Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration program of the Rural Housing Service, which is estimated to fully address the backlog of capital needs for the Section 515 and 514 rural housing stock; 
  • $10 billion to expand Community Development Block Grant funding set-aside to incentivize states and cities to eliminate impact fees and responsibly streamline the process for development of new affordable housing;
  • $10 billion for the Capital Magnet Fund, which will help fund hundreds of thousands of affordable housing solutions for low-income families; and
  • $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which will help build and rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership for low-income families.

The Housing is Infrastructure Act is supported by the Capital Magnet Fund Coalition, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Council of State Community Development Agencies, Enterprise Community Partners, LeadingAge, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Apartment Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, National Community Development Association, National Housing Conference, National Housing Trust, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Multifamily Housing Council, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, and Up for Growth Action.